Mr B has only gone and turned all the geriatrics of the world into hot dogs! Not only that, but he’s also kidnapped our hero’s dad at his own birthday party! The only way to stop him is to go on an epic baddie-bashing escapade with Sparkles the giraffe and his pet rock across five worlds of colourful platforming goodness. So, grab your backpack and get ready to collect plenty of coins, cupcakes and fight crazy bosses – like a dinosaur made from salad, a boggle-eyed pine tree, and a full English breakfast – in one of the most strange and approachable indie platformers currently on Nintendo Switch.
Although it may sound like an advert for a packet of Rowntree’s Randoms, I assure you that it is, in fact, the plot to Massive Monster’s indie game, The Adventure Pals. This cute little action platformer looks like the artistic love child of Scribblenauts and Adventure Time – complete with that modern trend of characters who have eyes too far apart and tiny mouths that are drawn too high up. Our nameless protagonist, who dons a wooden sword while keeping a giraffe in his backpack, can wall jump and attack foes with a single-button combo. As for your zoo animal friend, he seems content in dragging enemies towards you with his teeth in the midst of a smackdown while using his tongue as a helicopter so you can fall with style.
What is especially cool about The Adventure Pals besides the colourful art style and crazy plot, is how lenient this game is for both children and adults alike. The controls are clean and simple to pick up along with a written narrative that’s witty enough to stay entertaining. Some of the more humorous dialogue in place is clearly aimed towards adults but still manages to stay Pixar enough to fly over the heads of children. While the game focuses on a sole protagonist, there is a two-player co-op option that works particularly well with either a buddy or a brat.
Player 2’s character is pretty much a clone of player one with one exception. Sparkles happens to be a unicorn giraffe instead of a boring regular yellow one – a revelation to which my four-year-old daughter completely lost her mind over. You, as the adult, can tackle the more dangerous enemies to help clear a path for the little one while they learn to get to grips with the simple coordination skills needed to improve. As you have probably gathered, The Adventure Pals is not a difficult game. In any case, it is still polished enough to charm those who just want to enjoy the gameplay without a brutal learning curve. Sometimes, it can be a nice change to just sit back and relax without the pressure of death constantly looming over your shoulders.
Besides diving out of toasters, bouncing between dynamite-infused exploding walls and swinging around the joint by the giraffe’s gnashers, you will be spending most of your time caving in the heads of zombie pirate cats and jelly monsters. The good news is that beating baddies to a pulp will provide you with XP which will allow you to improve your skills slightly by choosing one of three power cards at a time. One perk will allow you to backstep from an attack for a counter-hit for example, while another may deal more damage to easily break an enemy’s shield should they possess one. It’s a simple yet cool addition that rewards you for your progression and never makes the combat any more complicated than a back flick of the stick.
The level design throughout the adventure is full of colourful eye candy with a soundtrack that fits great within the gameplay. Besides the change of theme to separate the style of each world, I did find that the diversity of the layout of each stage does tend to come across a bit too samey throughout. There’s a common architecture that the levels abide by that never really evolves from the beginning of the game to the end. However, each level is broken up with an overworld to where you can chase after sheep or visit the slew of supporting characters who usually have something silly to say.
It is within the company of the supporting cast where you will generally find your next mission, swap collectable cupcakes for costume accessories or spend coins on power-ups to help you along your way. There’s also a survival arena that pops up at several points of the game where you battle it out across five waves of enemies to earn a sticker to add to your sticker book collection. Unfortunately, despite being rather fun these arena sections are also infected quite badly with heavy slowdown. Considering that the game came out way back in April and hasn’t been patched yet may indicate that the issue may not ever get fixed in a future update.
The Adventure Pals may not be the deepest or most challenging game in the platforming genre. Nonetheless, it still manages to stay fun thanks to its topsy-turvy plot, accessibility and the neat ideas that are sewn into the charm of its art style. The familiar layout of the stages can become repetitive the more you play, yet work great when accompanied with the little person who runs riot around the household. If kids aren’t your bag but you still want something that doesn’t test your gaming skills to the limit, then The Adventure Pals could very well be the reclined platformer you have been looking for.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Armor Games Studios